A significant weakness for the Red Sox in 2020 has a chance to be a strength for Boston this season.
The Red Sox are in a far more desirable spot with their pitching depth in 2021 than they were last year. As much was made clear Wednesday when Boston optioned promising young right-hander Tanner Houck. Houck was sharp in his first start of the campaign and contributed out of the bullpen in Tuesday’s extra-innings win over the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Red Sox needed to create a roster spot for Eduardo Rodriguez, who will start Thursday.
Chaim Bloom couldn’t help but notice the irony when the club optioned Houck, who the Red Sox chief baseball officer stresses is still a key part of Boston’s plans this season.
“This is really about depth,” Bloom said Thursday on “The Greg Hill Show,” as transcribed by WEEI. “It’s actually kind of funny to me. Last year we went through a summer where we certainly didn’t have as many capable starters as spots. Now we like feel we have more, and that’s how it should be. That’s not a problem, at all. That’s what championship teams should have and from my standpoint, we need to build up even more depth. Sometimes that’s going to lead to somebody who is going to come up and perform really well, having to go back down and wait for another chance to contribute.
“But those chances are going to be there. He’s going to be a huge part of what we do this summer. We also have a lot of confidence in the other five guys. We felt it was best to keep everybody going and keep everybody in their starting roles. But make no mistake, Tanner Houck is going to be a big part of what we accomplish this year.”
Bloom also noted Houck took his Worcester assignment “great.” Manager Alex Cora on Wednesday said all Houck needs to do at the Red Sox’s alternate training site is to “keep working at his craft” and be prepared for the next opportunity.
As for Houck’s replacement on the big league roster, Boston’s series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore will mark Rodriguez’s first regular-season start since September 2019. NESN will have complete coverage of the American League East matchup, with pregame action beginning at 2 p.m. ET and first pitch to follow at 3:05 p.m.